Are you hitting the road with Pup?  Make it fun & safe:  Dogs should definitely ride inside!

When it comes to traveling with Fido, everyone has their personal preferences regarding seating arrangements & gear.  Whatever setup you choose, it should fit a simple criteria:  Pup should be secure in the back seat, so she can relax & not be a distraction to the driver.  We’ve heard horror stories about pets riding freely in front seats or on laps.  One that comes to mind happened to a client of ours who was driving with her little dog loose in the front passenger seat.  She had to hit the brakes to avoid rear-ending a car that stopped suddenly in front of her.  The abrupt stop propelled her dog under the brake pedal.  As a result, she did hit the car in front of her.  Thankfully, she & her dog are fine.  But a valuable lesson was learned.

What system & gear should you choose?  That depends upon your dog’s preference & size.  In general, if being able to see outside of the car relaxes Pup, consider a barrier between the front & back seats, a doggie car seat, or a tether system.  If the view out the window makes Pup anxious, let her ride in a crate.  Here are a few of our favorite products for canine car trips:

  • Car seat & harness (for little dogs) – Make sure it’s the right height for your dog and that it can be belted into the back seat.  Of course, it should also include an attachment for your dog’s harness.  By the way, many of the items in our list are harness-based.  So get Pup a comfy, padded harness, and help her acclimate to it on walks or supervised @ home.  That way she can relax while wearing it in the car.  For small dogs, we like soft neoprene harnesses, like Puppia or Cloud.  (The Cloud harness is shown in the video, below.)  Our Rusty showed off his car seat, which admittedly was a worthwhile splurge.  We chose it for its height, soft sides (chin rests), and the cover’s wash-ability.
  • Harness & tether (for larger dogs) – As mentioned above, get a padded one and acclimate Pup to it ahead of time.  We like the Bergan seatbelt harness (tether included).  If Pup already has a comfy harness, tether her to a seatbelt with the Ultimate Seat Leash.  It fastens to any seat belt & adjusts from 16″ to 24″.
  • Front seat barriers To keep Pup in the back seat if she’s not tethered.  The Screen Barrier covers more space between front seats & is “claw-proof”.  The Kurgo barrier also allows Pup to see through it.  These options are pricier, but they’re well-made.  If Pup relaxes best when she can see through the barrier, then these are for you.  If Pup doesn’t mind a barrier that blocks her vision, consider the more affordable Kyjen Outward Hound barrier.
  • Backseat slings or hammocks – Want a safe alternative to tethering?  These seat covers prevent Pup from falling onto the floor behind the front seat.  They also double as a front seat barrier.  Here’s a nice example.  Know that there are many types in all price ranges available.  Bonus:  Slings protect your car from fur & muddy paws!
  • Seat extenders – These only prevent Pup from falling onto the floor behind the front seat.  They do enlarge the backseat to accommodate a larger dog.  You’ll need another system to restrict Pup’s movement, though.  Here’s an inflatable version.
  • Overhead backseat cables  – This system also requires a harness/tether setup, but Pup can roam the back seat.  Just make sure Pup can easily sit & lie down when she’s tethered.  The Kurgo Automobile Zip-Line includes a tether & a harness.
  • Cargo barriersThese grates essentially turn the back of your SUV or van into a crate, so that the backseat is available for humans.

Let’s take a break here and check out the Cloud harness (mentioned above).  Our Rusty loves his!  Watch Jess Rollins & her adorable pooch, Bingo, demo it for you:

OK – Back to the gear.  What if Pup likes to feel the wind in her fur?

We strongly discourage folks from allowing their dogs to ride with their heads outside car windows.  Yes, it’s cute.  That is until Pup gets something in her eye or escapes from the car – just to name a few of the things that can go wrongWindow screens let the breeze in while keeping Pup safely inside.  On the high end (design, durability & cost) is the BreezeGuard.  On the low end (cheaper & less durable) is the window ventIf you must allow Pup to hang out the window, protect her eyes…. we love Doggles!

Still need to see dogs free in cars?  Watch this video.  It’s 5-minutes of cuteness:  Dogs riding in cars, heads hanging out windows, in slo-mo.  These dogs are doing it, so your pooch doesn’t have to!

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© 2012 Critter Consulting

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